This past week has encompassed stories of triumph and tragedy for the Jewish people.

Destruction and rededication of the Hurva Synagogue

Last Tuesday, for the first time in more than 60 years, a couple wed inside the Hurva Synagogue.  Located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Hurva Synagogue was first built in 1701.  The impoverished community could not cover all of the costs and turned to local Muslim creditors for loans.  The Jews struggled to repay their debts as well as taxes imposed on their community.  The Muslim creditors lost patience with the Jewish community’s inability to pay and destroyed the Hurva synagogue in October 1721.  For 100 years, the area lay in ruins.

Arab Legionnaire in Hurva rubble (1948)In the 1800s, Jewish groups attempted to gain the right to rebuild the house of worship.  In 1864, the Hurva Synagogue was inaugurated for the second time.  For the next 84 years, it served as a central hub of Jewish life in Jerusalem and Israel, hosting weddings and other celebrations.  Along with the expulsion of the Jewish population and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and other holy sites in and around Jerusalem, the Hurva Synagogue was destroyed by the victorious Arab Legion in the aftermath of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

Hurva rededicated (2010)Following the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 on the heels of the Six Day War, the Jewish Quarter fell under Jewish sovereignty.  In 2010, the work on the Hurva Synagogue was completed, and it was rededicated for the second time.  The joyous wedding of Rachel-Orli Journo and Avraham Pashnov will be the first of many, with several more to be married as soon as this week.

This is but one chapter in the history of the Jewish people, evidencing that, no matter the tragedy or misfortune, the Jewish people will return and rebuild.

Jewish family brutally destroyed

An unspeakable tragedy happened on Friday night.  A Jewish family – the Fogels – was butchered.  The lives of a 3 month old baby girl, a 4 year old boy, an 11 year old boy, and their two parents were brutally snuffed out.  The terrorist or terrorists who perpetrated this heinous crime did so in the particularly intimate method of stabbing them with a knife.

Hadas (3 mo), Elad (4 yo), & Yoav (11 yo)

Incitement continues unabated

In Gaza, Palestinian Arab residents celebrated, and the ruling terrorists of Hamas praised the attack:

Gaza residents from the southern city of Rafah hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar where five family members were murdered in their sleep, including three children….

Residents handed out candy and sweets, one resident saying the joy “is a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank….”

…Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, adding, “However; we in Hamas completely support the resistance against settlers who murder and use crime and terror against the Palestinian people under the auspices of the Israeli occupation soldiers.”

With the bodies of the Fogels still fresh, members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party named a town square after Dalal al-Mughrabi, the leader of a 1978 bus hijacking which murdered 35 Israelis.

“We stand here in praise of our martyrs and in loyalty to all of the martyrs of the national movement,” Fatah member Sabri Seidam said at the unveiling of a plaque showing Mughrabi cradling a rifle against a backdrop map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip….

Mughrabi and a group of gunmen landed by sea on a beach in northern Israel. They shot dead an American woman taking photos of wildlife and then hijacked the civilian bus and shot at cars.

A Zionist response

Ariel (an Israeli "settlement")

In an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet approved a simple, classic Zionist response to this act of terrorism. “They shoot, and we build,” Netanyahu told the Fogels’ family.  The authorization of 400 housing units in Judea & Samaria (the “West Bank”) – breaking a de facto freeze – constitutes a non-violent answer to those who would oppose the Jewish presence in Israel.  As with the Hurva Synagogue and throughout Jewish history, Jews who face tragedy and defeat find a resolve and an inner strength to rebuild and restore.

United Nations representatives found it necessary to as clearly enunciate their opposition to the building of 400 additional housing units as the brutal terrorist attack.  UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry stated that the building of housing units ”is not conducive to efforts to renew negotiations and achieve a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace.”  Has Mr. Serry considered, which is less conducive to negotiations and peace – murder and incitement, or building apartments and schools?

Tragedy and rebuilding

For this writer, the message of the Hurva Synagogue and the tragedy in Itamar are one and the same.  Just as the Arab forces drove every last Jew out of Jerusalem in 1948, the perpetrators of the murder of five family members and their supporters want to drive out the Jewish presence from anywhere in Israel.

There are those who oppose the existence of the Jewish people in our homeland.  Some oppose it with blood and violence, some with political pressure and words, and some with their silence and inaction.

But, make no mistake.  This people, who have cleaved to this land since the time of the biblical forefathers, will remain here.  We will remain here because of our history, because of our religion, and because of our legal right.  We will build and rebuild as many times as it takes.  Like the Hurva, when a synagogue is destroyed, we will rebuild it and fill it with weddings.  When a family is destroyed, we will create homes for 400 more.  The Jewish people will continue to build their homeland, one synagogue, one apartment, and one family at a time.